In October 2017,Babachir Lawal, then Secretary to Nigeria’s government,was sacked by a statement by Femi Adesina. Mr Lawal’s ostensible sins included swallowing N544 million ( $1:5 million) meant to clear grass to make space for temporary shelter for the Internally Displace People, IPD. Other stories say he didn’t spread the money wide enough.
Mr Lawal was in a meeting with Nigeria’s harassed vice president,Yemi Osibanjo, at the time. And he didn’t know about the sack. When asked by journalists, he reacted in a retort “Who is the Presidency”?.Today, the question is even more telling.
Mr Lawal was stating an integral truth about the nostrum that was/is the Buhari’s government. In his first term, he’d take 6 months to appoint ministers while the country ran on auto-pilot in very turbulent times. The results were that a recession followed immediately and violence intensified.
At some point,Mr Buhari spent 5 months in hospital abroad and you’d wonder again who was running Nigeria. It wasn’t Mr Osibanjo who acted a various times as acting president. If it was the cabal, they ran at cross purposes because at the end of the first term, Nigeria became the world headquarters of povert. It became the worst place on earth to bring up children. Fulani herdsmen became the 4th deadliest terror group on earth.
Because Nigerians are slow to reflect and quick to hope, somehow, they believed that Mr Buhari will be different in the second term. Why should he? He won’t be needing votes again and thus will act as he wanted. But they didn’t think like this.
And so, Sunday, Shehu Garba, spokesman to Buhari read statements credited to the president which in all intents and purposes suspended democracy.
“For somebody to sit in his sitting room to say we are doing nothing is rubbish. President Buhari is open to ideas, suggestions are welcome.
“We have a National Assembly. For someone to sit in the comfort of his home to call for a national conference, shows the person is not a democrat.”
Why doesn’t Mr Buhari obey court orders,for instance, on the release of Nigeria’s Shiites leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the presidential spokesman said:
“We are open to dialogue and the Shiites need to change and decide what is good for them. They should not push the government to the wall. They should think otherwise.”
And ministers? “President Buhari is the head of the executive arm of the government. As long as the President is running the country well, there is a need to give him all the supports he needs.”
Mr Garba ignores the fact that Nigeria is ,on paper, at least, a presidential system of government. With 3 arms. What Mr Buhari seeks is a total dictatorship. The judiciary has already died when Justice Walter Onnoghen was removed in controversial circumstances. The national assembly is a rubber stamp. What’s worse, all the problems of Mr Buhari’s first term are worsening and yet, Mr Garba says the president is “running the country well”? Nigerians who are dying from curable illnesses, the unemployed, the unpaid nurse and doctor and daily victims of herdsmen terrorism etc, Mr Garba is horribly wrong. Mr Buhari is neither running the country well nor is anyone seen to be in charge. Instead, you have a gaping interregnum where everyone in APC is a president.
Mr Buhari’s competence (mental and physical) was tested in the last Presidential campaign. In Warri, for instance, he didn’t know who was the presidential candidate just as he gave his minister for national assembly affairs ,Udoma Egba, the governorship banner even when the former was not running. Mr Buhari will also collapse into chairs in Kogi, Yobe and Kaduna state. At his inaugural, he didn’t give a speech.
And because of these, with all the best interest,Mr Buhari isn’t “running the country well” while ignoring other institutions. He just can’t. He neither has the vigor nor the mental capacity. And it is not his fault: Mr Buhari is very human. But to think that he is beyond human is a fault.
Everything seems to be in limbo because of a leadership hiatus .Anyone in Mr Buhari’s government acts a whimsically. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, says and does what she wants as a self-appointed foreign affairs minister.
Myetti Allah is threatening the rest of Nigeria because of a perceived and possible backing of the Presidency. Without recourse to the law, its leaders say the herders are free to live anywhere in Nigeria and very prepared to defend themselves even though ownership of guns is forbidden in Nigeria.
Nasir El Rufai, Kaduna state governor, is feared by other governors because they say he’s part of the shadowy government. Mr Rufai acts and talks unchecked. His state is now a full-blown war zone. Killings and kidnappings are so normal that it is now difficult to know who the perpetrators are.
Lagos, Nigeria’s putative commercial capital, is a huge organized crime run by Bola Tinubu who also aims to succeed Mr Buhari.
Adams Oshiomole, chairman of Mr Buhari’s party, also used to act as president but he is frying some fish in his home state. Last Friday, the “Presidency” said they won’t release Mr El-Zakzaky even as his men have taken over the entrance to Mr Buhari’s office.
In two months, the customary weekly national executive council meeting has been pole-axed. There is no interior minister to oversee internal security. In Mr Buhari’s axis of Nigeria, the governors have resorted to paying “commanders” of bandits to purchase temporary normal lives. The law is useless. The police is a demoralised group of men and women. The army doesn’t fair better.
On the economic scene, nothing is happening. Mr Aliko Dangote seems to be a happy man as he exploits the void in governance. He makes his own rules even as his truck have messed up all the major high ways in Nigeria. Some say that he enjoys a tax exempt of 10 years in a country that is going to spend N2 trillion to service Chinese related loans this year alone.
Mr Buhari also acts as petroleum minister but he doesn’t know what goes on at OPEC where a non member, Russia, and Saudi Arabia cut a deal recently to curb production. The NNPC,for instance, reports losses and are not known to put money in government coffers as was the practice before Mr Buhari. And the oil business is peopled by Mr Buhari’s cronies who are not necessarily qualified people.
5 months to the end of 2019, the national budget has not been funded. Again because there is no finance minister who shares the national revenues among it 3 layers of government. Add to that, nobody wants to give loans to Nigeria because it doesn’t earn enough to service the N24 trillion debt it somehow incurred in 4 years. Whatever it sells in its crude oil has 70% taken as debt settlement.
As the interregnum continues, as Mr Buhari and the interests he serves insist on governing like emperors while pushing aside the nation’s laws, it is difficult to imagine how the nation can get out of its self inflicted woes.
Any observer of Nigeria will quickly find that nobody is in charge. The nation is a failed enterprise that has refused to file for bankruptcy just as others like Ghana watch the paper tiger in wonder.
But even as Shehu Garba insists that Mr Buhari is doing well, it is easy to see crime rising, suicides more common, and a surge in a battery of other problems until it reaches its tensile strength at which point everything will snap. At that point, Mr Garba will recall that he once said a lot of rubbish. When that happens, he will be lucky to have a sitting room.